Is OPC compromise in view?

There may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

When the Rochester Older Persons Commission’s governing board meets Thursday, it appears the members are ready to take another look at one controversial item in the proposed 2012 budget, which has yet to be formally adopted.

After two years in which OPC employees received no increases in compensation, last year the board approved an increase in the payment in lieu of health insurance for full-time employees. The payment was increased from $1,500 to $7,950 per year, approximately the cost of the insurance premium. Also last year, the board voted to begin its first-ever pension plan.

Then, when the proposed 2012 budget came out with a 1-percent raise, Rochester City Council balked. The OPC’s other two municipal members, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township, approved the budget as presented. Under an agreement between the three municipalities, all three must adopt an identical version of the OPC budget.

On Jan. 23, two weeks after a Rochester City Council meeting was packed with seniors who want the stalemate to end, council offered a compromise: Lower the payment in lieu of health insurance to $3,000, provide a 1-percent bonus and defer the step increases. The OPC board will discuss it Thursday at its 4 p.m. meeting in the OPC’s Elliott Conference Room.

Rochester Hills City Councilman Michael Webber, who also serves on the OPC board, said Monday that OPC board Chairman John Dalton “has signaled a few times now” that he is willing to take another look at the item. Webber said the board could consider indexing the payment to that of an independent third party, such as the state of Michigan.

Rochester Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Cuthbertson said the expense must be lowered due to lower tax revenues   brought on by slumping property values. “What was proposed is just too much all at once,” he said. “This is a significant, multifaceted compensation increase. Now is just not the time to do all of it.”

Though Rochester’s city employees receive step raises and payment in lieu of health care, Cuthbertson said the city is moving away from those kinds of benefits for new hires. He said he can live with an OPC payment if they can “put a more reasonable number on it.”

The correct number must save the OPC money, he added. “There was no benefit before,” he said. “It didn’t make sense and save taxpayers money.” Rather, he sees the payment as adding new, fixed costs to the OPC’s bottom line.

“The OPC may have the money this year, but I don’t want it to be the floor for next year,” he said.

Webber said the payment in lieu will save money. “I still think that wherever it shakes out, it does save us money instead of having to pay for health care for that employee,” he said. “If all the full-time employees took health care, this wouldn’t really be discussed.”

Webber noted that the proposed 2012 budget’s bottom line is actually smaller than last year.

“This has always been a bottom-line budget,” he said. “When the board has made changes, they did not come back to us.”

Though Cuthbertson agrees that has been the case, he doesn’t think it’s right. “There is a requirement that amendments come back to each community,” he said.

OPC Executive Director Marye Miller said the whole brouhaha has been hurtful. If the payment in lieu of health insurance is rolled back, “They’d be taking away last year’s benefit,” she said.

“I think everybody is missing what this whole thing is about. This whole thing is about (Rochester City Council) having more power on the governing board. That’s what they want.” More about the OPC

Comments

  1. Ben Giovanelli says

    Feels like the good old days at the Eccentric. How I’ve missed them!

    If Rochester Hills Media and Annette Kingsbury were interested in presenting a complete story so you could be fully informed, that would truly be a great community service. Rather, we get “facts” to support a given position. That’s fine. Here’s my “facts” that also should be made part of this conversation.

    17.5%. In regards to the 17.5% increase in compensation for Director Miller, the following is fact: in 2010, she had total compensation of$78,676. In 2011, without approval of the three ILA communities via a budget amendment, a new pension plan was instituted that as your author says benefits 14 employees. The plan which pays twice your personal contribution benefits the Director with an additional $4,600 in compensation which as your author said occurred in June 2011. Also in 2011, the OPC Governing Board granted a payment-in-lieu of benefits (if you don’t take the Blue Cross, you get a check for what they would have spent anyway). That benefits exactly 3 people, one of which is the Director, and that number is $8,400 per year. Then we get to the much lauded 1% raise which is a mere $787 for the Director. Math: Prior total comp (W2): $78,676 + Pension contribution: $4,600 + Payment in lieu of benefits: $8,400 + 1% increase: $787 = New total comp: $92,463. Net change: $13,787 (13,787/78,676=17.5%)

    Part of their argument is that the pension contribution was approved last year and shouldn’t be counted. The point for me is that the net change in a 12 month span is cumulative 17.5%. Even if you agree that the pension shouldn’t be counted as part of the increase, the $8,400 payment in lieu alone is over 10% bump year over year. That payment in lieu only applies to 3 people, one of which is Marye Miller.

    Marye called us liars and that’s fine. But facts are stubborn things. They do not view a payment in lieu as a compensation increase and view the pension as “so last fiscal year”. That is where the disconnect is.

    The mythical 1% pay raise. Everyone keeps saying that Rochester is out to screw the dishwasher out of his 1%. Gotta love politics. Yes, the pay raise for OPC employees is only 1%. However, due to the Step Increases, the actual increase in pay is 2.65% because they are moving people up in pay grades. From the September OPC Governing Board minutes: “MOTION by Yalamanchi, supported by Fogler, Resolved, to approve the 2012 Wage increase as presented.
Discussion.
Treasurer Yalamanchi stated that all Commissioners had good points, respects all the comments and to correct himself, it does average out to 2.65% as Secretary Strand stated. Breaking it down, 1% represents the salary increase, and 1.5% is the different steps as employees are at different levels. Some were moved to the next step and some are at the maximum.
Chairman Dalton requested a roll call vote.
Aye: 5) Bochenek, Dalton, Fogler, Sommers, Yalamanchi
Nay: 2) Bikson, Strand
Absent: 1) Webber. MOTION CARRIED”

    More troublesome to me is the fact that OPC administrators are using tax-payer funded OPC resources to conduct political activities. OPC Arts Director Shahin Mesbah sent this out to thank a huge OPC distribution for coming out to gin up support and threaten Rochester City Council: “ Thanks to all that came to the Rochester City Council meeting on Monday 9th. It is greatly appreciated. The next council meeting is scheduled for Jan. 23 at 7:30pm. We hope to get more people attending and more opinions voiced. It is important that we show the city that we are persistent and will not tire no matter how long they postpone and drag this issue. Once again thank you for standing up for OPC as we know it.”

    No one on any of the three communities’ boards wants to do anything to harm the OPC. On the contrary, it is the long-term existence of the OPC which we are all trying to protect. Unlike our counterparts in Rochester Hills and Oakland Township, some of us on Rochester City Council questioned the wisdom of massive increases in fixed administrative costs, especially now with the economy the way it is. We are diligently unwinding and reviewing policies in Rochester that are out of touch with today’s economic realities and getting our city more in line with the private sector. I understand that is politically umpopular with those who have come to enjoy the fruits of other’s labors but it is critical for the long-term viability of organizations.

    As to Annette’s comment about the City employees in Rochester getting $500 a month for “in lieu” payments, next on the list is going to be a private sector/public sector study to make sure we are in line with what the tax payers who fund these operations get. I can tell you my employees pay 1/3rd of their benefit costs and there is no payment in lieu if you do not take them. That’s the real world.

    I noticed that in the January OPC newsletter they mention all the cost cutting that is going on and how they use old produce to cut costs. Seems to me that even the 3 @ $8,400 payment in lieu, $25,200 buys a lot of good food for people who are in need. Cutting costs and increasing administrator overhead costs at the same time is usually indicative of an out of touch organization.

    Ben Giovanelli, CPA
    Councilperson
    City of Rochester

    http://www.dispatch.com/content/downloads/2011/09/BRT-Public-Sector-Comp-Study.pdf

  2. cathy daldin says

    Compromise, are you kidding. Not the OPC Board. They live in a bubble. They would not consider such a request. Some members on the board think they hold all the power and that they do not have to consider any concerns that the 3 communities that support them have. That is pretty much what was said today. Dig your heels in. Way to go OPC board.

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